Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Notes From The Impecunious

I march into this week with forty dollars that has to last me until Friday. I should be fine, though, because I now have a monthly Metro Card which takes me everywhere in the city for free, and I've socked away sack lunches for the next three days, and there's plenty more rice and beans where that came from. So I'm not worried.

But it does explain why I've suddenly been second-guessing every purchase I make. Most recently, I had to refill my soap stores. For the last year or so, my soap of choice has been ... well, I don't know from soaps, but some blue body wash whose smell contains no fruit or vegetables whatsoever. (In Soapland, that's how you know it's manly.) But my local grocery takes the trouble to mark, not only the price, but the unit price per pound, on every purchase. And that'll cause you some real sticker shock. I figured body washes were kind of a ripoff (and a real boon for the plastic-scrunchy industry), but I had no idea that they hovered around $12 a pound. And in the same aisle I was clutching my money in, down in the lower levels, there was a display of ill-regarded and unhip bar soaps of the type we used to use for carvings in art class. Their prices were amazing. I mean, you may think Zest or Lifebuoy saves you money, but wait till you try (ahem) Palmolive. Yes! Palmolive makes a bar soap now! And it costs $2 for three bars! That's the same price you pay for high-end ramen.

So my scientific mind kicked in, and I thought, "Soap is soap, isn't it? I don't care how you may infuse it with tingles or pore-seeking hydratants, in essence soap is designed to remove dirt from skin. And you should be able to do that at 67 cents a bar just as easily as you do at $4.89 a bottle." But I also remember that when I was using bar soap, I tended to go through it pretty quickly, and it generally turned into a soggy mess after a few days in a watery environment, so that a quarter of the bar would slough away like so much rendered fat. "You know what?" I told myself, "let's experiment and see which lasts longer! Let the experiment begin!" I'm a big fan of any experiment that costs two dollars.

So far, my basic theory seems to have been borne out---that soap is, in fact, soap. But I neglected to account for perfumery. Good soaps have light, subtle aromas, while cheap soaps resort to blunter tactics. So right now, having just left the shower, I am carrying around a Palmolive-scented cloud of a cheapness that I have heretofore only associated with border-town hookers and Camay. Let me just announce it now: I apologize in advance to anyone I may hug. Think of it as a clean smell and you'll get through it better.

The other thing I hadn't counted on is that soap, in its purest form, is not particularly pleasant, and when you're washing with Palmolive you'd best keep your eyes closed tight. One overzealous scrub, one too-thick lather, and some particle of foam will find its way to your eye and it'll sting so painfully you'll swear you can hear it sizzle. It's a particularly bad way to start your day if you're on a deadline, because you waste valuable time screaming "Agh!" and leaning against the shower wall, looking downward and trying to blink away the agony.

I just keep telling myself I'm doing this for science. And it only cost two dollars.


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